Freshman Ariana Taylor (13 points) and sophomore Alexa Hoy (12 points) reached double figures in scoring but a tough start loomed large in UTEP’s 70-51 deficit against North Texas at the Super Pit Thursday evening.
The Miners (4-11, 1-1 C-USA) found themselves down 11 (14-3) three minutes into the contest, with the Mean Green (10-5, 3-0 C-USA) connecting on their first six shots of the contest. UTEP did its best to withstand the early barrage, battling to get within five (35-30) midway through the third quarter only to have a 9-0 UNT run put the game out of reach for good.
The Miners finished at 34.6 percent (18-52) from the floor, which was hindered by a readout of 22.2 percent (4-18) from 3-point range. After the quick start shooting by the home side UTEP tightened up, resulting in UNT checking in at 41.9 percent (26-62). The Mean Green won the boards (43-37), despite Ariana Taylor (career-high seven rebounds) and Zuzanna Puc (seven boards) putting in some work on the glass. The Orange and Blue did take good care of the ball with only 12 giveaways but it wasn’t enough to compensate for the other areas.
“Tonight was a difficult night for us as we forced UNT to shoot from the perimeter early and they hit shots,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “We got in a hole and had to fight our way out. We cut the lead to five in the second half but we just ran out of gas.”
UNT was paced by Grace Goodhart and Velma Mitchell, who each finished with 14 points.
North Texas jumped out to the aforementioned 11-point lead, forcing Baker to call timeout. It was a 12-point deficit (20-8) with 1:30 left in the frame before the Miners got things going a bit with a 6-0 push. Taylor was the catalyst, providing five of the six points. UNT connected on a jumper on its final possession to make it an eight-point affair (22-14) through 10 minutes of action.
It was a defensive-minded second quarter, with the two teams combining for 18 total points. After a lay-up from Puc and a coast-to-coast score by Jordan Jenkins, it was a six-point differential (24-18) midway through the quarter. UNT countered with five straight points, putting the Orange and Blue down by double figures (29-18) again. Consecutive scores from Jenkins brought the margin to seven (29-22) but a late triple by UNT made it a 10-point difference (32-22) heading into halftime.
After the Mean Green extended their advantage to 12 (34-22), UTEP struck back with an 8-1 push over the next three minutes to trim the deficit all the way down to five (35-30) with 6:21 remaining in the third quarter. UNT had an answer, which came in the form of nine straight points. Katarina Zec connected on a jumper to halt the surge, but UTEP was unable to build on it. The Miners played hard down the stretch, but never could get closer than 11 the rest of the way.
UTEP will wrap up its three-game roadswing to start league action by playing at Rice at 1 p.m. MT/2 p.m. CT Saturday. The game will be broadcast locally on 600 ESPN El Paso with Brandon Cohn on the call and also streamed online through CUSA.tv (subscription required).